I was once at a conference on the UMass campus, and agreed to meet some of the attendees downtown in a few minutes. I got on my bike, arrived at the destination, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Just when I thought I’d gotten the site wrong, they showed up. I realized that traveling by bike is often faster than driving a car.
I just returned from Amherst’s annual Bike Week breakfast, and am wondering why more people don’t use bicycling for transportation.
We all know the benefits of bicycles: they don’t make any pollution, they keep us in shape, and they are much cheaper than cars. Unlike cars, they don’t put a wall between you and your environment. I use my bicycle for most trips within Amherst; it’s only a mile to the center of town and three and a half miles to the Survival Center, where I volunteer once a week. I was a bike commuter for almost 30 years.
“But I can’t ride a bike in bad weather!” some say. I dial back my biking when it’s snowing or raining, but that’s less than 20 percent of the time. Bicycling a mile or two in cold weather isn’t too uncomfortable — or at least, the discomfort doesn’t last long.
“I’m not in good enough shape to ride a bicycle.” Well, it’s time to get in shape — by riding a bicycle! Actually, few people are such couch potatoes that they couldn’t bicycle a mile.
“The traffic is too dangerous!” This is a more understandable concern. Cars and drivers’ unpredictability can be scary to cyclists. I’m an experienced bicyclist who’s familiar with most of the dangers of the roads I bike on. Yet I remind myself to keep a safe distance from cars every time I ride.
I suspect that many people use cars instead of bicycles because commutes have gotten longer, because they’re accustomed to using machine power over human power, because they see biking as recreation or exercise but not transportation, or because they think that’s just what well-to-do Americans do.
As the climate crisis becomes more obvious to people, I hope that more will consider the positive aspects of bicycling, which can improve the quality of one’s life while helping our planet to survive.